Medha M. Pathak, Ph.D.

Medha M. Pathak, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Physiology & Biophysics

Medha Pathak received her Bachelor of Sciences from St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, India and Masters in Life Sciences from National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India. She obtained a Ph.D. in Biophysics from UC Berkeley, for work on voltage gating of ion channels with Ehud Isacoff. As a Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellow with David Corey at Harvard Medical School, she studied transduction of sound and gravity by ion channels in inner ear hair cells. Working in Francesco Tombola’s lab at UC Irvine as a postdoctoral fellow and then an Assistant Researcher, she initiated a new line of work identifying a role for the stretch-activated ion channel Piezo1 in neural stem cell fate. In June 2016, she joined the Department of Physiology and Biophysics faculty as an Assistant Professor, where she continues to study Piezo1 in cellular biophysics and developmental fate.

Research in Lay Terms
My lab is interested in understanding how mechanical cues in the environment influence stem cell fate, and how these can be harnessed to improve stem cell therapies. We examine these processes in neural stem cells, which are promising therapeutic agents to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Research Focus
My work focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which cells sense and utilize information about their mechanical landscape. How does a cell detect matrix stiffness, fluid flow or stretch? How is this information relayed to the different parts of the cell? How does the cell integrate this mechanical information with genetic and chemical cues in making cell fate decisions? Finally, how do these mechanical processes shape biological events underlying normal development and pathological states?

Detail on Research
The long-term goal of my lab is to understand at molecular, cellular and organismal levels, how mechanical forces modulate neural stem cell fate in development and repair. We previously showed that the stretch-activated ion channel Piezo1 mediates mechanosensitive lineage specification of neural stem cells. Our studies revealed that Piezo1 activity in neural stem cells is modulated by matrix mechanics, and that it influences differentiation of the cells into neurons or astrocytes. Current work focuses on understanding (i) how Piezo1 detects and transduces matrix mechanical signals, (ii) how Piezo1 activity is translated into gene expression changes, (iii) how Piezo1 may shape neural development, and (iv) how Piezo1 may be involved in certain disease states. We use a multi-disciplinary approach, combining ideas and techniques from ion channel biophysics, cell biology, optical imaging, stem cell biology and bioengineering.



Jesse R Holt, Wei-Zheng Zeng, Elizabeth L Evans, Seung-Hyun Woo, Shang Ma, Hamid Abuwarda, Meaghan Loud, Ardem Patapoutian Is a corresponding author, Medha M Pathak. Spatiotemporal dynamics of PIEZO1 localization controls keratinocyte migration during wound healing. eLife 2021 Sept 27; 10:e65415.

Department Affiliations  Department of Physiology & Biophysics and Department of Biomedical Engineering

  • Favorite Book
    My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
  • Favorite Movie
    The Godfather

Favorite Quote
The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them” – William L. Bragg

Additional Links
Lab website:


Phone: 949-824-6623

Office: 3026 Gross Hall
Lab: 2200 Gross Hall